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The importance of marriage in Pride and Prejudice

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Introduction

In "Pride and Prejudice" Austen explores the conditions that will allow for the right kind of marriage. Which of the marriages do you think she sees as likely to be the happiest and why? The major theme throughout the novel "Pride and Prejudice" is marriage. Through various characters and their resultant relationships, Austen provides the reader with a wide scope of marital environments, and conveys the ways in which individual characters and their communication with their opposites can shape a relationship. In the 18th and 19th century, marriage was considered by all middle to upper class women as a prime method in gaining a higher social status in life. As marriage was the point at which a young lady would be passed from being the property her father, to that of her husband, it was considered to be the means by which a lady could climb socially, gain riches and to own great properties that she and her family had not had access to. Marriage seemed to women one of the few ways to gain not only love, but also status and both financial, and social security. Previous to marriage, women were not allowed to have any kind of independent life outside of the home, and so the principle means of gaining this independence was marriage. For this reason of freedom from her father, the marrying of a daughter was a prime concern for both the parents of the girl and the daughter herself. It was essential for a girl to be passed on to her future husband purely, meaning that any intimate relationships with men before a marriage proposal were strongly disallowed. This often meant that in the company of gentlemen, unmarried ladies were required to be modest and socially aware of their parent's desire for good marriage. This therefor implied that if a lady were to be asked to join a man in a respectable marriage she was usually expected to accept this invitation with gratitude. ...read more.

Middle

Jane Austen has allowed knowledge to be passed between the two, giving them chance to both learn of their own and the opposites flaws. This marriage could be seen as one where the two characters have used each others strengths to come to know their own selves and prejudice has been overcome by insight, generosity and rational good sense, a quality both can boast of having. The third relationship to consider is that between Mr Collins, and one of the Bennet girls' closest friends, Charlotte Lucas. Mr Collins is the aim of much satire in the novel and as a result is seen in a light of both sympathy and dislike. He is unknowingly pompous, insensitive and foolish and lacks greatly in self-knowledge. The Bennet's house at Longbourn is entailed to Mr Collins and for this reason alone he feels (as does Mrs Bennet) that it is his duty to marry one of her daughters. This expectation that Mr Collins would be able to marry any one of the Bennet's is purely based on economic background. Mr Collins feels that he is able to exploit his position as the future owner of the Bennet's capital wealth, a position that he sees as making the daughters economically vulnerable towards him. Yet his proposals to firstly Jane then Elizabeth are hastily rejected by them to the objection of their mother, and it just after this point that Mr Collins is shown in his true light. Almost immediately after being refused he hurriedly decides to propose to Charlotte Lucas with little consideration. He is now shown to be greatly materialistic and only cares for size and wealth rather than the true sentimental value of anything. He is also shown through this to have little idea of what true "love" was, and this is further indicated by the haste in which he proposes to Charlotte Lucas. Charlotte Lucas is older than any of the Bennet girls and feels a great pressure on her to be soon wed. ...read more.

Conclusion

Austen clearly felt that there was a need for a considered balance of passion with reason, in a relationship that was based not only on love and respect, but which was also rationally based on thorough knowledge of each other's characters and personalities. It is a relationship that through failure and then learning from the mistakes made in stressful times, both characters have been able to end up in a strengthened position. The least surprising outcome of any of the relationships is the marriage of Charlotte Lucas to Mr Collins. They both seemed content in marrying each other for their own private reasons. Charlotte was -6- sensible enough to understand her family's desire for her to secure her financial future, and she too did not feel comfortable being still single at the age of twenty-seven. Mr Collins' motives for marriage were far less innocent, but were understandable considering his personality and his connection with the aristocracy. He revealed himself to be only interested in the materialistic aspects of life. He prides himself on the large and expensive, and had no understanding of the sentimental or personal value of anything, by which he shown to consider these possessions as the most important thing in his life, and having once married Charlotte Lucas, this weak relationship is greatly highlighted. Mr Collins seems to be far happier alone with his possessions, than he is spending days with Charlotte. In all Jane Austen has managed to use five different marriages and show them in a way to reveal the real feelings at the bottom of the relationships. Through the eyes of Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, Austen has revealed some of the deepest feelings towards the societies of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. And through all the marriages she has been able to highlight how both personal and social opinion held such a strong place in any decision on marriage. She has shown failure and success due to anger, love, lust, jealousy and respect, and has shown triumphs over pride and prejudice. ...read more.

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